Below is an overview of gift books perfect for the hard-to-buy-for person on your list.
Perhaps you’ll find one or two titles to add to your own wish list, too—happy reading!
Humor books abound this time of year; there are books for every age and taste. Bob Newhart fans will be delighted to receive his new book, I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This!: And Other Things That Strike Me as Funny (Hyperion—$23.95) Newhart’s deadpan, self-deprecating style shines in this very funny memoir, which covers his career from his stand-up days until today and includes anecdotes about his memorable friends, such as Don Rickles, Dean Martin and Jack Benny. With this book, Newhart proves that sometimes nice guys do finish first.
For younger humor fans, there is I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America’s Top Comics ($23.95—Crown). “Top” comics might be a little bit of a stretch, but this collection of tales of hecklers, bad gigs, touring woes and other assorted disasters will convince all but the truly committed never to try standup comedy. Ritch Shydner and Mark Schiff, both standup comedians and sitcom writers, compiled these stories and Jerry Seinfeld wrote the introduction. Warning: This is definitely an R-rated comedy collection—not for the faint-hearted.
My guess is that 99 percent of New Yorker readers peruse the cartoons before they read the rest of the magazine. Two new cartoon collections will delight these readers: The Rejection Collection ($22.95—Simon Spotlight Entertainment) edited by Matthew Diffie and Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, Health-Inspected Cartoons by Roz Chast, 1978-2006 ($45—Bloomsbury). Matthew Diffie asked 30 regular New Yorker cartoonists to choose their favorites from their rejected pile and from that stack he culled his favorites. The result is a quirkier, goofier, more risqué collection of cartoons submitted, but never published. Judging from the hilarity content, space was the main reason these cartoons didn’t make the cut in the magazine.
Roz Chast is a regular contributor to the New Yorker. Her new cartoon collection, the follow-up to The Party, After You Left is a selection of her cartoons spanning the last 28 years.
Adult pop-up books are a big item this season. As children’s pop-up books become more sophisticated and collectible (think Robert Sabuda), savvy publishers are expanding their audience by moving into the adult market. My favorite is Graceland: An Interactive Pop-Up Tour ($40—Quirk Books), by Chuck Murphy with a foreword by Priscilla Presley. I will eventually visit Graceland in Memphis, but until then I will be satisfied with this paper-engineered tour. It’s all there—the jungle room, the meditation garden, the television room and more. The kitchen spread not only displays the kitchen, but it also includes a refrigerator and cabinets you can open to see what the King’s shelves were stocked with. Sidebars on each page give further details about the estate and Elvis’s life. Published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Graceland’s status as a national historic landmark, this will delight Elvis fans everywhere.
Film lovers will enjoy Alfred Hitchcock: The Master of Suspense ($29.95—Simon & Schuster). It features seven of Hitchcock’s films, one per pop-up. Best of all, each spread has a lift-the-flap sidebar that shows the scene in which Hitchcock has his usual walk-on role.
Two more pop-up books deserve brief mention—The Pop-Up Book of Celebrity Meltdowns by Bruce Foster ($29.95— Melcher Media) and The Pop-Up Book of Sex by Balvis Rubess and Kees Moerbeck ($29.95—HarperCollins). The first features the escapades of Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Paris Hilton. The second is self-explanatory. Both are perfect for pop-culture mavens, but be forewarned—they are both R-rated.
Parties are a huge part of the holidays and there are many books on entertaining in case you need new ideas for your gathering this year. The most elegant is A Passion for Parties, by Carolyne Roehm (Random House—$50). Gorgeous photographs of well-manicured landscapes, artfully arranged place settings and beautiful people abound in this spectacular volume. Recipes and party planning tips are at the end of the book, but this is the kind of entertaining one dreams of; in the real world, you are more likely to reach for Barefoot Contessa at Home if you need helpful hints for your next soiree ($35 – Random House). Ina Garten’s newest book features simple recipes with simple ingredients, beautifully presented. Her advice to the hostess is keep it simple and make sure your guests are comfortable. Anyone who gives dinner parties would enjoy this book. On the more plebeian end of the spectrum is Amy Sedaris’s new book, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence ($27.99—Warner). The intended audience for this book is young, hip and financially challenged; the recipes are simple and don’t require exotic ingredients. While some of her musings should be taken with a grain of salt, this is a fun, hipster take on how to entertain.
Susan Taylor has been in the book business, in one aspect or another, since 1982. She recently returned to the Capital District after 14 years in the Boston area (which included stints at the Harvard Bookstore and the Wellesley Booksmith), and is happily re-employed at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza. Stop by the store if you are looking for a good book—she’s read a lot more than she can talk about here!